Iran’s new space center 80 per cent complete

The Safir (ambassador) satellite-carrier rocket, which will carry Iran's Omid (hope) satellite, is seen before launch at Iran's space centre in Tehran (Reuters/Fars News)
A new space center in Iran, which will be used to launch satellites made by the Islamic Republic and other Muslim nations, is currently 80 per cent complete, the country’s defense minister said.

­The first space mission involving the new facility will be the launch of Tolou (Dawn) satellite, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Saturday.

The general did not provide any timeline for the launch or mention the location of the center, which was named after Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran is currently commemorating the anniversary of the leader of the 1979 revolution’s death.

At the moment Iran has two facilities directly involved in space exploration, a launch center near Semnan, 200 kilometers east of Tehran and a satellite monitoring site outside Mahdasht, about 70 kilometers west of the Iranian capital.

The Iranian space program dates back decades. The county build its first domestically designed and produced spacecraft in mid 2000s, but it was boosted into the orbit by a Russian carrier. The first Iranian independent space mission occurred in 2009.

In February 2010, Iran reported it had successfully launched a menagerie of animals into space on a research rocket. It plans to perform its first manned space flight within a decade.

Iran says its interest in space exploration is purely civilian. They want to have satellites for weather forecasting, disaster monitoring and surveillance of its territory.

However rocket technology needed for launching spacecraft also has military applications, delivering warheads over long distances. Critics say Iran wants to build a missile capable to be equipped with a nuclear warhead, which would be created as part of its nuclear research program. Tehran denies these allegations.